Between Accra and Kumasi is a rail line. A rail line which has not been used, for trains at least, for a long, long time. It has fallen into disrepair with sleepers missing, plants growing along its path, its tracks partially buried by dirt. No train could possibly make it through.
But, Ghana is a nation of shop keepers and merchants. And while the train may no longer be in use, the track and the space around it, are one of the best utilised spaces in the country. Each town, outside the major centres of Accra and Kumasi have a market day, or two, per week, depending upon the size of the town. Traditionally taboo days, where work in the fields was forbidden, market day provides a chance, not only for some retail therapy, but socialising too. And many of these markets are along the train line.
While fruit, vegetables, rice, nuts, oil and other staples can be bought any day in the market place, market day is a whole other level to what can be purchased. Have you ever wondered where all those secondhand clothes go after you drop them into the charity shops? They come to the markets of Africa! Huge polyweave sacks of clothing are bought by the stall holders or small shopkeepers, and this forms the basis of their stall. But what is really cool, is that the stalls can become insanely specialised. Just women’s skirts, just women’s blouses, just children’s clothes, just sheets and tablecloths, just jeans, just belts, just handbags. Mountains of shoes. In Konongo there is a permanent store which sells a combination of new (inside the store) and second hand shoes (hanging on ropes outside the store). But the second hand shoes are all big brand sandals: Birkenstock, Keen, Teva…I bought Bill some Chalcos for GHC40 (about $20). Jock got a very cool new (for him!) school backpack, from ‘Boy Scouts of Korea’.
There are also amples of new things to buy: toothbrushes, steel wool, weird blue rocks of bleach, long strips of mesh which Ghanaians use for their bath, fancy thongs made in Ghana (printed Made in Italy!!), and of course, fake hair.
My favourite stalls though are the ladies selling second hand Indian clothes. Loose-fitting cotton tunics, often with matching pants, gorgeous scarves edged in flowery lame and sprinkled with sequins. Unfortunately, most are too small for me! We bought Lill a fabulous pink dress, encrusted with sequins and diamantes, rivalling the Koh-i-Noor! The best dress-ups ever.
Onto other things:
If you are an expat in Kumasi, please feel free to join our Kumasi Expat group on the Accraexpat page. We are trying to build a little community of expats in this second city of Ghana.
And a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has read our blog. We have skipped past the 11,000 views! What a thrill.